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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 08/5/15

Guests: Sam Youngman

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I have to believe that Jon Stewart decided to end his program on the night of the first debate, essentially to give like a booster rocket to Trevor Noah coming in after him. It is going to be very sad that he`s not there. STEVE KORNACKI, UP: Maybe he should extend it one more night. How about that? MADDOW: Let`s start a petition. Thank you, Steve. Thanks, my friend. KORNACKI: Sure. MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. I have an important video to show you right off the top tonight. I need on warn you. It is a little bit graphic. It`s not like war graphic. It is more like nature graphic. It`s a little bit weird. Where it comes from, this is, you know the videos that start playing now whenever you go to a political campaign`s website? This is the thing they all have now. This for instance is what you get when you go to the Web site for Chris Christie`s super PAC. You get all the normal stuff in the foreground. But in the background, you get the video of Chris Christie telling it like it is, you know, meeting with potential voter, kissing babies, and you know, doing that sort of thing. Here`s the Web site for Carly Fiorina`s super PAC, the same deal. It looks like the same template. You get a patriotic video that plays in the ground, the American flag waving around and you get Carly Fiorina out there in the campaign trail and everything else is in the foreground. So, those are the videos that you get now when you go to a campaign or a candidate`s Web site, sort of standard issue for this year in politics. Got it. Well, here`s the video that you get when you go to the Rand Paul super PAC website. You go to the Web site, and this just starts playing even if you don`t do anything. You go to the Web site and this -- (VIDEO CLIP PLAYS) MADDOW: Bald eagle, slow motion. Very nice. Now, what`s the bald eagle doing? What`s that? What -- what is that? Oh, God. Rand Paul`s super PAC has a video that plays when you go to the Web site even if you do nothing, that shows a bald eagle, or three bald eagles, maybe the same eagle, three different angles, three videos of eagles grabbing live fish out of the water. And it just runs on a loop. At a certain point, you can even see blood spurting out of the fish as the eagle`s talons yank it out of the water. Look. Look at that. I told you it was a little graphic. I think this is a little graphic and I fish. So, this is one great service that the Rand Paul super PAC has done. It gives you more information than you ever wanted and that you never asked for about what it looks like for an eagle`s talons to impale a live salmon and hoink it out of the water with blood everywhere. That`s one service they have done. One thing they have not done is raise very much money for Rand Paul. And today, we may have learned why. This is the section of that same Web site that shows who runs Rand Paul`s super PAC. And the guy you see right at the top there, today he was indicted by the U.S. Justice Department. The president of Rand Paul`s super PAC Indicted by the feds today and he is not the only one. The guy who has been running the super PAC who is not pictured here, he was also indicted today. The Justice Department made this big announcement. Of course, it is one day before the first 2016 Republican debate. The Justice Department announced that had two key members of Rand Paul`s inner circle have now been federally indicted for their alleged role in a presidential campaign bribery scandal. And if you want to know what a big deal this is, if you want to know how close they are to presidential candidate Rand Paul, you do have to back up a little bit here. Rand Paul announced his presidential in April of this year. He made his announcement in his home state of Kentucky. And he was surrounded at that event, surrounded on stage by his closest friends and family, including his former campaign manager. See the gentleman that you see there on the left with the adorable little kid on his lap. The guy in the red tie, his name is Jesse Benton. He was on stage for the Rand Paul announcement. He is one of the people who was indicted today by the Justice Department. It raised eyebrows at the time that Jesse Benton was up there on stage for the presidential announcement. It raised eyebrows even then because at the time of that Rand Paul presidential announcement, Jesse Benton had just been basically forced out. He just had to resign his position as campaign manager for Mitch McConnell. And he`s had to resign it basically because of his connections to this campaign bribery scandal from the last presidential election. I mean, Jesse Benton when he was up there on stage with Rand Paul, he was already under investigation by the FBI. When Rand Paul tapped Jesse Benton to run his super PAC time, he did so with the knowledge that Benton was already under FBI investigation. Then fast forward to today, after Rand Paul inserted him to this really high position in his campaign, today, he was indicted. Jesse Benton indicted for his alleged role in paying for a political endorsement four years ago when it was Rand Paul`s father Ron Paul who was running for president and Jesse Benton was the Ron Paul for President campaign manager. The indictment lays out in stark detail the lengths that Rand Paul for President campaign allegedly went to, to basically buy an endorsement to win the Iowa caucuses this year. The scheme revolved around this Republican state senator, the bald guy. He`s a Republican state in Iowa. His name is Kent Sorensen. And his price according to the indictment was somewhere around $70,000. In the lead up to the Iowa caucus in 2012, Kent Sorensen had been traveled a state co-chair for the Michele Bachmann. Kent Sorensen traveled the state for Michele Bachmann. He helped run her efforts in Iowa. But then it was this shock just a few days before the Iowa caucuses in 2012 when Kent Sorensen suddenly switched sides. He made this dramatic announcement just a few days before election day in Iowa that that he was leaving the Bachmann campaign and instead endorsing Ron Paul. It was a big deal, a big surprise when it happened. But almost immediately, it smelled sort of fishy, right? This state co-chair for Bachmann just suddenly switching sides days before the election. Well, the night that it happened, Bachmann herself, she held an impromptu press conference where she made this wild-sounding allegation that this had just happened to her. This shock had just befallen her campaign because Kent Sorensen was being paid to do it. It sounds crazy, right? She said, though, he was being paid by the Rand Paul campaign to switch sides. That would be a crazy sounding allegation coming from almost anyone, coming from Michele Bachmann, though, it wasn`t just crazy sounding. It was almost incoherent. I mean, she tried but watch how it went. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MICHELE BACHMANN (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Kent Sorensen personally -- let`s see. Excuse me just a moment. Kent Sorensen said to me yesterday, here we go. Sorry about that. Kent Sorensen personally told me he was offered a large sum of money to go to work for the Ron Paul campaign. Kent campaigned with us earlier this afternoon in Indianola, Iowa, and then he went immediately afterward to a Ron Paul event and announced that he was changing team. Kent said to me yesterday that everyone sells out in Iowa, why shouldn`t I? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Everyone sells out in Iowa. Why shouldn`t I? That was Michelle Bachmann unveiling to the world this campaign bribery scheme in the middle of the Republican nominating process in 2012. She was unveiling this scheme, one misplaced iPad swipe at a time. And I think because it was her and because of the iPad thing and because it sounded so crazy, it was hard to see at the time what exactly she was trying to expose. But it turns out, Michele Bachmann was right. At least according to this indictment from the Justice Department, she was really on to something, because today, the Justice Department laid out in this indictment exactly how they say the Ron Paul campaign led by Jesse Benton, allegedly made more than $70,000 in payments to this Iowa state senator in exchange for his endorsement, straight up bribery. The payments were transferred through two shill companies, so it would be hard to trace them in the campaign finance report. Part of this indictment involves the conspiracy between the Ron Paul aides and this state senator to lie about those payments at official campaign documents and government filings. These payments for this state senator switching from Michelle Bachmann to Ron Paul, these payments from the Ron Paul, they went on so long that in June 2012, which is well after Ron Paul was effectively out of the race that year. In June 2012, the Ron Paul campaign and its staffers were still apparently paying the state senator. Quoting from their communication in the indictment, quote, "This is the last payment for Kent Sorensen, the deal Jesse agreed to with Kent." Well, now, it`s the next presidential campaign and now it is the son of Ron who Jesse Benton has been working for. Not Ron Paul himself. And this is sort of a bombshell indictment. I mean, Jesse Benton himself has been charged with lying to the FBI about this payment scheme when he was questioned about it last year. Mr. Benton is being charged with five counts, which include making false counts and conspiracy. The president of the eagle eating fish Rand Paul super PAC, this guy John Tate, he is facing four counts. Another associate is facing a further count of obstructing justice by allegedly trying to cover up this whole scheme. Jesse Benton shared the stage with Rand Paul just four months ago. He is a Ron Paul/Rand Paul lifer and he is now staring down the barrel of a five-count federal indictment. He and John Tate are schedule to appear in federal court next month, September 3rd. Jesse Benton said through a lawyer a tonight that he is eager to go before a judge so he can clear his name. The Rand Paul campaign put out a statement today saying this was a politically motivated investigation. But this is -- this is a big deal. It was a big development last month alone when the Rand Paul super PAC announce that had they barely managed to raise any money at all for the Rand Paul campaign. The Rand Paul super PAC raised the lowest total of all the 2016 candidates. Now, maybe we have an inkling as to why, the reason behind that`s surprisingly bad showing. Maybe it is because, eagle videos notwithstanding, the Rand Paul super PAC may soon be going to prison. They`ve had other thing on their mind than getting Rand Paul elected. Joining us now is Sam Youngman, political reporter for the "Lexington Herald-Leader" in Rand Paul`s home state of Kentucky. Sam, it`s great to see you. Thanks very much for being with us. SAM YOUNGMAN, LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER: It`s great to be with you, Rachel. MADDOW: First, let me ask you. I`ve just been absorbing this today. I read the indictment, this 20-page indictment. As far as I explain this, does that basically comport with what you understand the government is alleging here? YOUNGMAN: That`s right. I guess I would add that part of conspiracy involves filing a false FEC report. Basically what they did was they hid these payments in their FEC report as audio visual equipment. So, that`s part of it too. I guess the long and the short of it is that I think Jesse Benton can now empathize with the fish in the video you showed earlier. MADDOW: In terms of Jesse Benton and trying to think about this in terms of this otherwise, you know, conceivably viable presidential candidacy from Rand Paul. How central is Jesse Benton to the Rand Paul presidential campaign to the Ron Paul and Rand Paul political machine? How important is he in Kentucky where he is not just part of Rand Paul`s operation, he`s been a very high profile asset for Mitch McConnell? YOUNGMAN: Well, Jesse Benton is not just Paul`s staff. He`s Paul family. He is married to Ron Paul`s granddaughter -- Ron Paul`s niece. You would say he is one of the top lieutenant. I first met Jesse going back in 2007 when Ron Paul was running for president then. So, I`d say as he central cog in that operation. But, you`re right. I mean, Jesse`s finger prints are all over the campaign in Kentucky. He was Senator McConnell`s campaign manager until Kent Sorensen pled guilty last August. Jesse resigned that position about three days later. Currently, Jesse is running a campaign for state auditor here. It`s a state representative, Republican running against a state auditor who is considered to be a rising star within the Democratic Party, a gentleman by the name of Adam Edelen. When Jesse took on this client, State Representative Mike Harmon, he was pretty candid with me that part of the reason for doing so was to sort of rough up Edelen ahead of a possible challenge to Rand Paul next year. Remember, he is running for re-election to the Senate next year, as well as president. So, yes, Jesse`s reach is pretty deep in Kentucky. This will send I think shockwaves through quite a bit of the Republican Party here. MADDOW: Sam, one of the interesting national story lines about Rand Paul`s presidential campaign is that it`s not very good. People expected at least at the national level, people expected more from him as a candidate. They expected more from him in terms of his operation. They certainly expected more from his fundraising. Do we have any reason to believe that this -- the threat of this happening today and now obviously this indictment coming down today and it being three Paul family associates named by the federal Justice Department, do we have any reason to believe some of this might have been what was distracting them or holding them back or gumming up the works for Rand Paul? YOUNGMAN: I don`t know. This has been hanging over their heads for a long time now, going back to late 2011. So, I don`t know that that is necessarily the reason he`s failed to get off the ground. I think there are a number of reasons, not least of which, you know, Rand Paul is not exactly the candidate -- when you look at the poll now and Donald Trump leading, what Rand Paul has tried to do, other people are doing it better. He is not the outsider candidate he hoped to be. You know, I think this is problematic. My guess is that this only, you know, force -- they feel like they have to double down and support Jesse and forge through this. But you mentioned money earlier. I mean, Carly Fiorina who didn`t even make the cut for the debate stage, her super PAC raised $3.4 million. Jesse raised $3.1 million. Now, if you`re already having trouble raising money, I don`t know how you start calling up these -- you know, what we call the sugar daddies and get them to fund your super PAC, and say, yes, I`m under indictment. But will you still write me a check? So, I think, look, it has been a problematic campaign. They stumbled getting off the ground. They`ve stumbled through the summer. A bad summer just got much worse. MADDOW: Sam Youngman, political reporter for "The Lexington Herald- Leader" -- Sam, thanks very much for your time tonight. It`s good to have you here on this. YOUNGMAN: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: I will say -- I mean, there`s a few ways this is going to fall out, right? There`s a few things to watch here. One, obviously, is what happens with this criminal case. I mean, especially, if they`re going to make a political issue out of it and say these are politically motivated charges, the Obama Justice Department trying to tear down the Paul family? I don`t know. Watch how the criminal case goes. Watch in the short term to see how Rand Paul does at the debate, to see if this is a distraction for him or if he is able to do anything. If other candidates are going to use it against him in some way. But, honestly, like the sort of third and fourth day implication of this story that I`m really interested in is -- are they still bribing people in Iowa? I mean, Michelle Bachmann was right about this in the very beginning. She said everybody is on the take in Iowa. Are bribes still being paid for endorsements in Iowa? Can that be part of this investigation? We`ll be right back. We`ve got a lot ahead tonight. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, authorities in Tennessee have just wrapped up a press conference about the very scary situation that happened at a movie theater there today when a man attacked several people with a hatchet and some other weapons. So, we`ve got this new information. We`re just getting it in right now tonight, which as far as I understand it, it actually changes much of what we thought we knew about this attack, in terms of the information we had earlier in the day. Again, that new information which changes the picture of the attack, this movie theater attack today in Tennessee, that new information is just coming in. We`ve got it right after this. So, please sit tight. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, I have never quite seen anything like this at a crime scene in the aftermath of a crime. We`re going to show you this tape here. This is from this afternoon. It starts with a public information officer from the Nashville police. But then watch who he introduces on how this goes. I have never seen this happen before. And I can`t exactly put my finger on why but I find this very moving actually. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DON AARON, METRO NASHVILLE POLICE DEPT.: OK, is everybody gathered? All right. The gentleman standing to my right, first name is Steven. S-T- E-V-E-N. That`s the only identification that Steven wants to give you for his name right now. Steven was one of eight persons, including the suspect, who was in the theater during the showing of "Mad Max". Steven was the person who suffered the laceration. Thankfully minor from the hatchet or axe that the suspect was carrying. Steven has agreed to make a brief statement to you all. He is not going to entertain any questions. He is going to make a brief statement and then he`s going to turn around and walk away. He is doing this today so that his privacy is maintained and his family is not disturbed or bothered today or in the coming days. Again, Steven has agreed to make this statement now. No questions. And then when he`s done, he`s going to turn around and walk. OK, sir? STEVEN, VICTIM OF THE THEATER ATTACK: The only thing that I would like to say is that I am eternally grateful -- excuse me -- for the Metro Police Department for their fast response today and the fact that no one else got injured other than the person who did this. I would ask anyone to pray for his family because he obviously has some mental problems or something else. My family does not want any kind of 15 minutes of fame. We were not looking for any of this. We did nothing to bring this upon ourselves. And I am very, very grateful that no one else got injured here today other than the person who perpetrated this. Again, I just want to say I am eternally grateful for the Metro Police Department for the absolutely phenomenal job they did, the speed with which they got here when they were called and the emergency medical technicians. And I would also like to thank all the citizens who gathered around us, helped my daughter when we were pepper sprayed. That kind of gives me a little more faith in humanity again. I really don`t have anything else to say. I know you all like a lot of questions answered but there`s nothing I can answer. I have no idea why this gentleman decided to attack us. He is -- from my understanding, he is no longer able to answer those questions. In the coming days that come ahead, please direct all of your inquiries to the Metro Police Department so they will find out what they can about this gentleman, or TBR (ph) or whoever handles these kind of things. I don`t know. I don`t want to be involved in any of this kind of stuff. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: He said no questions and he meant no questions. That was it. He turned and walked. And that statement today from the man who was superficially injured, he was hit with a hatchet, in what appears to have been a completely random, totally unprovoked attack inside a movie theater in Antioch, Tennessee. That is a very human reminder that it could be any one of us at any time. You don`t have to do anything in particular to potentially be the victim of a random unprovoked violent attack like this. People stay perpetrator of this movie theater attack in Antioch, Tennessee, which is a suburb of Nashville, they say as he`s a 51-year-old man who lived locally and officials just moments ago just announced new information tonight about what happened. They have a little background information on the attacker of this, they specifically talked about what he was armed with. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AARON: It appears this individual has had significant psychiatric or psychological issues. They are reporting that he had been committed four times, twice in 2004 and twice in 2007, the that Murfreesboro Police Department has informed us that he was reported as a missing person on August 3rd after they received a call from the Texas Rangers. We have no motive for this today. We need to see where he has been, who he may have been talking to. We`ve release ad photograph of the gun. As you all have seen, the gun is a very realistic gun that strongly resembles a semi-automatic pistol. It is in fact an air soft gun. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: An air soft gun. So, it`s not a regular gun. That contradicting the information, at least the implication of information that we had earlier in the day that this suspect, this now dead suspect had engaged in an exchange of gunfire with police on the scene of that theater attack. He may have exchanged something with police but he was not armed with a gun that fires bullets as we regularly think of them. He was armed with an air soft gun -- I`m sorry. We also had, I`m sorry, just getting news from the control room. We had been told earlier that he was a 51-year-old man. That information was also corrected today. He is a 29-year-old man. In any case, the information we got earlier on this event today ended up being different than what happened tonight. We expect I think further information, shedding hopefully even more light on the scary attack at this movie theater in Antioch, Tennessee, today. What motivated it, and what potentially could have had happened there, but did not end the way it did with the attacker being killed. But we`ll let you know more as we learn more. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: In March, Texas Senator Ted Cruz became the first major Republican to announce that he was running for president this year. He gave his announcement speech at a school in Lynchburg, Virginia, a school that calls itself the largest evangelical Christian university in the world. Liberty University founded by the late televangelist Jerry Falwell. And as you can see from the pictures of the event, Ted Cruz drew quite a crowd at Liberty University for his presidential announcement. That crowd that day actually turns out to be by far the biggest crowd that Ted Cruz has drawn throughout the course of his campaign. In fact, the 11,000 people that Ted Cruz had at that event, that is tied for the largest crowd any candidate has had at any 2016 event this year so far. If you rank the largest crowds for events on the 2016 presidential campaign trail, if you rank the size of the crowds so far, Ted Cruz is the only Republican Ted Cruz is the only Republican who makes it into the top six. The other five places are all held by Bernie Sander, every single one of them. And honestly, given the relatively small poll numbers Ted Cruz has gotten in the campaign, it is quite impressive that he got 11,000 people to show up to hear him announce at Liberty University. It is impressive except for the fact that attendance at Ted Cruz`s speech at Liberty University was required for Liberty University students. It was mandatory for them, and not in a euphemistic must-see TV kind of way. It was actually imaginer to for them as part of the school. School rules. The Ted Cruz presidential announcement at Liberty University was part of something called convocation. Liberty students have to go to convocation. So, yes, you know, it took some real cojones for Donald Trump to apparently pay actors to appear at his presidential announcement, but honestly, it`s much cheaper to just find a crowd that`s required to be there and then appear before them. But that is how we got by far the largest crowd any Republican has yet drawn in the 2016 race. And with that in mind, consider the following: today we got new news, it was announced that next month, Liberty University is going to host another 2016 presidential hopeful as a convocation speaker. This time that candidate will be -- guess. Guess who it will be? No. It is actually going to be Bernie Sanders, the only guy who doesn`t need to fake his crowd size to impress. But Liberty University`s fantastically conservative student body will be required, next month, to go see Bernie Sanders at convocation at Jerry Falwell`s Liberty University, September 14th. That`s going to be amazing. Mark your calendars. September 14th. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT: First, examine our attitude towards peace itself. Too many of us think it is impossible. Too many think it is unreal. But that is a dangerous defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable. That mankind is doomed. That we are gripped by forces we cannot control. We need not accept that view. Our problems are manmade. Therefore, they can be solved by man and man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man`s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable and we believe they can do it again. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: President John F. Kennedy, June 1963. He was assassinated less than six months after that. But on that June day in 1963, he spoke at American University. He gave what has become known as his Strategy of Peace Speech. He was talking about the strategic pursuit of peace with the Soviet Union as an alternative to war with the Soviet Union, which is basically what everybody thought was inevitable at that time. That the U.S. and the Soviets would go to war. But in that Strategy of Peace Speech, JFK did this one very, very radical rhetorical thing for which this speech is now remembered more than 50 years later. I mean, in that speech, he announced new policy and he made news in that speech and it was an important speech. But the really shocking thing he did that day was that he broke a rhetorical taboo. He broke the taboo of talking about the Soviet Union like they were freaking unknowable savages. He decided to stop doing that. At the height of the Cold War, just months after the Cuban missile crisis, in that speech, it turns out he had some nice things to say about the Soviets, which at the time blew everyone`s minds. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KENNEDY: No government or social system is so evil that its people must be considered as lacking in virtue. As Americans, we find communism profoundly repugnant as a negation of personal freedom and dignity. But we can still hail Russian people for their many achievements in science and space, in economic and industrial growth, in culture and acts of courage. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Outrageous, right? I mean, outrageous at the time. The Soviets were only supposed to be pure evil. He`s talking about them as less than evil. Well, today, 52 years later, our current president also went to that same place. He also went to American University and he referenced that speech by President Kennedy from back in 1963. And then, our current president committed JFK`s same rhetorical heresy, talk not about how to avoid war with the Soviets, but now how to avoid war with Iran. Watch this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just because Iranian hard liners chant "death to America" doesn`t mean that`s what all Iranians believe. In fact -- it`s those -- (APPLAUSE) In fact, it`s those hardliners who are most comfortable with the status quo. It`s those hardliners chanting "death to America" who have been most opposed to the deal. They`re making common cause with the Republican caucus. (APPLAUSE) The majority of the Iranian people have powerful incentives to urge their government to move in a different less provocative direction. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Not all Iranians chant that "death to America" nonsense. But those who do, they`re making common cause with the Republican caucus in the United States Congress. Ouch. President Obama has been making an aggressive case for weeks now that Congress should support this deal with Iran and give this diplomatic effort a chance to succeed so there doesn`t have to be a war with Iran over its nuclear program. Today though, in supporting that deal, he went really hard at the critics of the deal and the war with Iran that he says they want. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Between now and the congressional vote in September, you are going to hear a lot of arguments against this deal, backed by tens of millions of dollars in advertising. And if the rhetoric in these ads and the accompanying commentary sounds familiar, it should. For many of the same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against the Iran nuclear deal. For the last couple weeks, I have repeatedly challenged anyone opposed to this deal to put forward a better plausible alternative. I have yet to hear one. What I`ve heard instead are the same types of argument that`s we heard in the run up to the Iraq war. Iran cannot be dealt with diplomatically. We can take military strikes without significant consequences. We shouldn`t worry about what the rest of the world thinks, because once we act, everyone else will fall in line. Tougher talk, military threats will force Iran into submission. We can get a better deal. I know it`s easy to play on people`s fears, to magnify threats, to compare any attempt at diplomacy to Munich. But none of these arguments hold up. They didn`t back in 2002 and 2003. They shouldn`t now. (APPLAUSE) The same mindset in many cases offered by the same people who seem to have no compunction with being repeatedly wrong, led to a war that did more to strengthen Iran, more to isolate the United States than anything we have done in the decades before or since. It is a mindset out of step with the traditions of American foreign policy, where we exhaust diplomacy before war. And debate matters of war and peace in the cold light of truth. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: President Obama today making that pointed case for Congress to support the nuclear deal with Iran. He actually closed that speech with the request that people contact their members of Congress to tell their members of Congress that they support the Iran deal. One of the things that`s been going on at our show over the last couple days and weeks, behind the scenes around here, you will see this eventually. But we`ve been working behind the scenes on some shows we`re calling the tale of the tape. They`re deep dives into the news archives to find out about the people running for president this year, find out about them before they were presidential candidates. So, we just -- this tape is amazing. We`ve all been happily wallowing in the old news archives like hippos wallow in mud. It`s been amazing. Sometimes you come across archive footage that is not just cool or interesting because it shows us what we used to be like. Sometimes something takes you up short, because it makes you realize that we`re really not who we used to be at all. You come across something that makes you realize that the modern us has actually screwed something up. The modern us has lost something that we used to think we would have forever. And that`s how I felt today when I was watching that old footage of JFK at American University from 52 years ago. Watching that footage today and he said this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KENNEDY: The United States as the world knows will never start a war. We do not want a war. We do not now expect a war. This generation of Americans has already had enough, more than enough of war and hate and oppression. (APPLAUSE) We shall be prepared if others wish it. We shall be alert to try to stop it. But we shall also do our part to build a world of peace where the weak are safe and the strong are just. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: It used to be taken as a given that the United States of America would never start a war. That used to not just be true. That was a truism. It didn`t even need to be proved. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KENNEDY: The United States as the world knows will never start a war. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Of course the United States would never start a war. Until we did. And we became a country that can never claim that moral high ground again. Never claim that American exceptionalism ever again. And today, President Obama said we are now being sold the chance to make that mistake all over again. Do we really want to go there again? Because we can if we want to. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So there have already been several points in the fascinating 2016 presidential campaign at which Donald Trump has said things or done thing that would have spelled political doom for just about any other candidate, but not for Donald Trump. It seems like everything he does that would kill a normal candidate just seems to make him stronger. But now tonight, there is new reporting of something that Mr. Trump apparently did that is qualitatively different than everything else that should have stuck to him so far and hasn`t -- qualitatively different something, something that could really hurt his campaign. We`ll have to see. But it`s a new thing. And that`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When Mexico sends its people, they`re not sending their best. They`re not sending you. They`re not sending you. They`re sending people that have lots of problems and they`re bringing those problems with us. They`re bringing drugs, they`re bringing crime, they`re rapists, and some I assume are good people. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Donald Trump in June announcing that he was in the running to become the leader of the free world, also announcing that Mexicans coming to the United States are rapists. Those remarks drew tons of criticism in the days and weeks following Mr. Trump`s presidential announcement. But there was never an apology. There was never any clarifying statement for Mr. Trump. He meant what he said. So, as everybody criticized him for it, he just kept saying it over and over again. We keep thinking that the over the line things that Donald Trump says will have some sort of political cost for him. That never new rail comment he makes will hurt him this time or sink his chances this time, make him somehow less appealing to Republican voters. But none of that has happened, not when he made the comments about immigrants being rapists, that he is number one with Hispanics, which is hilarious. Not when he questioned Senator John McCain`s heroism as a prisoner of war for five years. I mean, all of these things, for normal candidates, these would be gaffes or worse. For Donald Trump, though, they only seem to make him stronger. For whatever reason, the normal political rules either don`t apply to him or reply in reverse. And so, we`re sort of left with this question on the eve of the first Republican debate. If none of those things that would sink normal candidates, if none of those things hurt him, what could hurt him? We don`t know. But "The Washington Post" reports tonight on something that for most normal candidates would actually be an asset for their campaign. It would make them look great. In the upside-down world of the Donald Trump campaign, what "The Washington Post" reported about him tonight though might be toxic for him. It might be toxic for him, if he is now seen as someone who is running for president with the support of former President Bill Clinton, and that is the sort of woolly implication of this have provocative report from "The Washington Post" tonight. Robert Costa and Anne Gearan reporting that in late May, while Donald Trump was considering a run for the presidency, former President Clinton and Donald Trump spoke on the phone about it. Quote, "Former President Bill Clinton had a private phone conversation in late spring with Donald Trump at the same time, Mr. Trump was nearing a decision to the run for the White House, according to associates of both men." Quote, "Four Trump allies and one associate familiar with the exchange said that President Clinton encouraged Trump`s efforts to play a larger role in the Republican Party, and offered his own views of the political landscape." Trump`s allies telling "The Washington Post" that, quote, "The 42nd president listened intently, and then analyzed Trump`s prospects and his desire to rouse the Republican base. One person with knowledge said the former president was upbeat and encouraging during the conversation." One Clinton associate telling "The Washington Post" that it was Mr. Trump who reached out to President Clinton a few times, that this conversation took place when President Clinton returned those phone calls in late May. This associate telling "The Washington Post" and NBC News tonight that actually the 2016 race was not discussed. So, like I say, this is a little bit of a woolly story. But, apparently just a few weeks after that reportedly encouraging phone call, Donald Trump did jump into the race, and then started calling Mexicans rapists. The first Republican primary debate is tomorrow night. Donald Trump is by far, by a mile the Republican front runner for the nomination. This report in "The Washington Post" will likely be the last thing anybody learns about him, the last new thing, heading into that debate. We don`t really know what hurts him as a candidate and what makes him stronger in this campaign. He doesn`t seem to play by the normal political rules. But this one`s got to be a real test at least, doesn`t it? Joining us now is MSNBC political reporter Alex Seitz-Wald. He`s been covering Hillary Clinton`s campaign. Alex, it`s great to see you. Thanks for joining us tonight. ALEX SEITZ-WALD, MSNBC POLITICAL REPORTER: Good evening, Rachel. MADDOW: So, what is the reaction from the Clinton campaign tonight to this report? Obviously the top level implication is that Bill and Hillary Clinton want Donald Trump in the race because he makes all Republicans look terrible. SEITZ-WALD: Well, the Clinton campaign is staying about as far away from this as possible, which I think it`s the right move. I mean, in politics if your opponent is struggling, you don`t get involved. But that`s the strange thing here. I mean, I would not be surprised if you see a Republican opponent of Trump using this against him, starting with the question, why were they even on the phone with Bill Clinton to again with? You can`t picture Ted Cruz or Scott Walker shooting the breeze with Bill Clinton. And here you have, you know, you have the coach much your arch rival team coming and offering you advice on your starting lineup, you probably don`t take the advice, because in politics and sports and anything, you`d love to be able to pick your opponent, but generally, the other team, the team you`re on, you don`t want to let the others guys pick your opponent. So, all of this just opens up a huge Pandora box for Donald Trump, which is his long relationship with the Clintons. He`s donated over $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation. He`s donated to Hillary Clinton`s Senate and presidential campaigns. Hillary Clinton sat at the front row of his wedding in 2005, in 2012, he said Hillary Clinton was doing a great job as secretary of state. So, do Republicans really want to make this guy the ones to go up against Hillary Clinton? MADDOW: MSNBC reporter Alex Seitz-Wald, Alex, thanks for that. Very helpful in terms of understanding this. Really appreciate it. SEITZ-WALD: Thanks. MADDOW: The other side of this of course is what this says about the Clinton campaign, right? If they say that this had nothing to do with Hillary`s campaign, this is not a strategic matter at all, as Alex said, what was Bill Clinton doing on the phone with him? Is Bill Clinton helping with the Hillary Clinton campaign? I mean, it might help if Trump is now seen as a Democratic tool, but was it deliberate on the part of the Hillary campaign or does Bill just do what he wants? No matter the implications for anyone? Oh, it`s going to be such a fun year. It`s going to be such a fun year. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Programming note, sort of -- actually, it`s not really at all, but it`s great news. Since 2013, former Congressman Patrick Murphy is a wonderful guy -- a guy I`m very proud to call him a friend. Patrick Murphy hosted a show called "Taking the Hill." It`s a show specifically about veterans, veterans navigating their way through life and continued service and politics and everything after they have come home from serving in war. I`m here to tell you tonight that "Taking the Hill", Patrick Murphy`s show is going away. But it is going away from the best of all possible reasons. The White House has just announced its nomination of former congressman Patrick Murphy to serve as the undersecretary of the United States Army. It`s the second highest ranking civilian position in the army. It`s a huge deal. And honestly couldn`t happen to a better guy. Patrick Murphy was the first Iraq war veteran to ever serve in Congress. He was outspoken about his opposition to the war in which he served and which he was he was awarded a Bronze Star as an airborne ranger, decorated straight male combat vet, he was an early leader in calling for the repeal of "don`t ask, don`t tell", which was the policy that banned gays in the military. Since Congressman Murphy left in 2011, he`s been a tireless advocate for veteran`s issues and he`s just a smart and great person to have around in any organization. It is a big loss for this network, and for the show to the extent that we`re able to call on Congressman Murphy in a day in and day out basis. But it is a huge gain for the army and this country he`s going to take on this next stage of his service. Congratulations to Patrick Murphy. We are so excited about this. That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL". Good evening, Lawrence. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END